School board stumped by Chatham Grove grandfathering choices

Posted 8/16/19

PITTSBORO — Chatham Grove Elementary School is slated to open in about a year, and the Chatham County Board of Education has made a lot of decisions about the school.

The next, at least so far, …

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School board stumped by Chatham Grove grandfathering choices

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Posted

PITTSBORO — Chatham Grove Elementary School is slated to open in about a year, and the Chatham County Board of Education has made a lot of decisions about the school.

The next, at least so far, has proven to be a tough one.

The board discussed possible grandfathering rules for rising 5th-graders who would want to stay at the school they attended prior to the upcoming rezoning. Three new attendance zones were created — the new one for Chatham Grove and adjustments for Pittsboro Elementary School and Perry Harrison Elementary School — and the board had previously agreed to “some grandfathering” for rising 5th-graders that would be forced to change schools.

But on Monday night, during the board’s monthly meeting, what those stipulations will actually look like was difficult to come by, so much so that the conversation will extend into next month’s meeting while district staff come up with different scenarios.

The situation’s complexity showed itself in the questions that Chris Blice, Chatham County Schools’ chief operations officer, asked of the board. The baseline was that no reassignment for other grades would be allowed in or out of schools with changed attendance zones, and the board agreed that any restrictions would not apply to children of district employees.

Questions that existed included: How long of a window would the board allow for grandfathering applications? Would that grandfathering, if granted, be extended to that student’s younger siblings, and if so, would it just be for that year or through the rest of their elementary education? If all 5th-graders wanted to stay, could all the elementary schools handle the student population? Would district personnel and school board members be able to handle a potential plethora of transfer requests if the stipulations were loose?

No firm decisions came out of the discussion Monday, but the board is expected to take up the topic again next month.

Additionally Monday night, the school board approved a proposed timeline for establishing attendance zones for the upcoming Seaforth High School.

The Chatham Grove zones were recently approved after an 18-month process, but the Seaforth zones are expected to be finalized in a much shorter time period. Staff will begin collaborating with representatives from the Operations Research and Education Laboratory (OREd) at N.C. State University, which helped the district develop the zones for Chatham Grove, over the next three months. From December of this year to March of next year, district staff and OREd representatives will hold public input sessions at Northwood High School, Margaret B. Pollard Middle School, Horton Middle School and Moncure Schools. The board will receive possible zones by April, with the decision expected to come next July.

Seaforth will open in the fall of 2021 with 9th- and 10th-grade students only, as juniors and seniors will be allowed to finish at their previous high school. Eleventh grade will be added in 2022 and twelfth grade in 2023, with the first graduating class to walk across the stage in 2014. No grandfathering decision have been made regarding Seaforth as of yet.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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